Friday, February 19, 2016

The City (Winter Edition)

One of my favorite cities - really, my favorite city (shhhh! don't tell DC!) - is New York City. 

I spent a lot of time there while growing up, and there was no question of where I wanted to go to college. I moved back to DC after graduation, but I never missed an opportunity to go up to stay with friends. Even today, I would move there in a minute (a New York minute!) if that was in the least bit practical for my family (which it is not).

Here are two thoughts (of many) that I have about New York City. First - people who live there or in the surrounding areas refer to it as "The City." People in New Jersey don't go to New York to see a show, the go to The City. People in Long Island don't go to New York City to meet a friend for dinner, they go to The City. It's like there are millions of cities all over the world, but New York City is THE city.

Second - New Yorkers are not rude or mean or unpleasant in any way. Or at least no more so than people in other cities. If someone is super rude to you when you ask for directions, they are not real New Yorkers. They are people from other places who moved to The City. Born and raised New Yorkers are some of the friendliest most helpful people I have ever met. Especially when it comes to telling you about their city. A perfect example of this would be the many times that my subway train was re-routed and I had to figure out how to get from somewhere like the Lower East Side to the Upper West Side for my weekend brunch shift. I only had to spend a minute or two examining the subway map (which to the uninitiated, looks something like a map of the vascular system of a human arm) before someone would ask me if I needed help. I would sometimes attract a crowd of New Yorkers competing for who could give me the best directions. And they could never just say "take this train to that stop, and then transfer to this train." They'd be all, "you COULD blah blah blah OR you could blah blah blah, but your BEST BET is to blah blah blah." This was somewhat problematic since I would inevitably just get all of the directions confused. Why couldn't they just tell the best bet!? Confusing or not, I love me some friendly option-giving New Yorkers!

But back to the point of this post (yes I have one!). For a while now I've been dreaming of taking my kids to The City. Sure - it wouldn't be anything like the long lunches, shopping and bar hopping of yore. But one of my favorite things to do in NYC is absolutely kid friendly. I wanted to take them to see all of the holiday decorations. The gigantic tree and ice skaters in Rockefeller Center...the window displays a few blocks away at Saks Fifth Avenue...the smell of roasting chestnuts... They would love it!

Luckily, I have family that lives just outside NYC in NJ. So we could easily plan a day trip while visiting them. Long story short (yes - I can do that sometimes), our day in The City wasn't quite what I had hoped. I forgot how crowded all of those places with holiday decorations can get. Probably because it's much easier to zip through crowds as a single person than as a mother with three children in tow. For the most part, it was a lot of getting crushed in crowds – but I still loved it! And my kids found their OWN favorite thing to do there. Here is a recap in haphazard iPhone pictures:

The kids got to take their very first train ride!

We could see the tree at Rockefeller Center if we stood on our tippy toes and the ice skaters if we peeked through gaps in the crowd.

We even got a family picture (thank you friendly New Yorkers!).  Of course two of us are rocking the double chin look big time and the only scenery behind us appears to be a the draped private area of a statue...but we’re ALL in the picture!

We tried to look at the holiday windows at Saks, but it was a bust. I remembered magical fantasy displays with moving figures and some kind of narrative that unfolds as you view each window. This year it was white evening gowns and crystals. Pretty - but the kids were bored. We should have made a stop at Macy's as we headed uptown from Penn Station. I heard later that they had a Peanuts-related theme. Here are a couple of images I found on to show you what we saw (and should have seen):

Saks Fifth Avenue: I would have enjoyed this on my own...
but no child stands in line to look at fake Snow Queen banquet tables. 

Macy's: Dammit.

I actually found some images of Saks' holiday windows in 2005 (the last time I saw them - 10 YEARS ago). Can't include them since Getty sues for that kind of thing, but if you are interested (and you should be because they are SO much better than 2015), click HERE.

Takeaway: Saks doesn't have the same holiday window budget these days. Bummer.

At this point I was desperate for my children to find SOMETHING they the loved in NYC. So obviously I made them walk a mile to Central Park. And I will tell you right now that all of that "we're tired" and "can we stop and rest" and "my feet are bleeding" that kids pull on their parents is complete BS. Because the minute my whiners saw the Central Park rocks, they were running.

Looks like I didn't take any action shots of the climbing. I think I was too busy spotting them (or trying to). They could have climbed for hours more, but we had dinner plans in NJ. Once we pried them off the rocks, we looked for a subway to take us back down to Penn Station. This was another bust, as the random station we picked had only one subway fare machine and it wasn't accepting credit cards. And since we are complacent people (or sadistic parents - depending on if you ask my children) Chris and I just kept walking.

This ended up taking us through Times Square where we ran into the Naked Cowboy. I didn't even realize he was behind me. Chris made me stop so he could take a picture.

Then we got a great view of the Empire State Building. Again - Chris made us pose (I think he took more pictures of me with the kids that day than he has during our entire life together as parents!)

Look at how bedraggled poor Eleanor was! It was a long day... AND so much fun that we decided to go back in January! Well, I decided to go back in January. Chris was going to be away on a 10-day business trip.

The kids had a four-day weekend and we had a little more time to stay. So we actually had two outings. The first of which was a visit to the Liberty Science Center...

Wow! Fish! So exciting – almost like we’re at Petco or something.
And nope - no idea what is going on with George's hair...

This turtle was 100 times better at posing for photos than my children.

Eleanor was the only one to get all the way across the rock wall on the first try.

More science stuff!

“Oliver – take off your hood!” “George – put on your coat!” “Eleanor – stop acting so grumpy!”
No one ever listens to me…but this one was pretty cute.
(In Eleanor’s defense – she claimed to have a cracker in her mouth and couldn’t smile. I’ll take it.)

Another highlight was seeing tanks of gigantic fish from the Jurassic age that apparently still live in the Hudson River. Okay - I made up that Jurassic part. But as far as I'm concerned, those were dino-fish. Also - remind me to never fall into the Hudson River. 

My kids said that their favorite thing was The Touch Tunnel, a big, box-like structure that you enter on one end and exit on the other. You basically crawl through a meandering tunnel, in absolute darkness, trying to feel your way out. Oh - and there are infra-red cameras that take pictures of you while you're in there. You can download these to your phone. Handy if you're into social media sharing... #FunInTheTouchTunnel #OnlySoundsDirty #GoodCleanFunExceptForAllOfTheGerms.The line wasn't too long (which was lucky since my Aunt Jan said it's usually packed). But there was just enough time for Oliver to turn to some girls behind us and say, "hi girls, want me to buy you some flowers?" Just a little mashup of the stuff he learns in his social skills group and the cartoons he watches on TV. Never a dull moment with that kid. 

Eleanor was mortified of course, but that didn't last long since she was starting to get nervous about being in the pitch dark. She begged me to accompany her, which I only did because she seemed so scared. As a card carrying "not fun" parent, I would typically say no to crawling on my hands and knees through...well, anything really. Five minutes later when we exited the structure, George was jumping up and down, exclaiming over how awesome it was and asking me what I thought. I didn't want to harsh his buzz, so I stayed neutral, "well - it wasn't my favorite thing I've ever done..." And no - I decided not to download the infra-red picture of my butt.

The last thing we did at the Liberty Science Center was the Titanic Exhibit. This was both fascinating and haunting (I have no pictures of this since cameras were not allowed). The kids were getting museum'd out at this point, so we didn't linger over the displays as much as I would have liked. But they LOVED how we each got a "boarding pass" that gave us a name, class and background story. At the end of the exhibit, we got to look ourselves up on the survivor lists to see if any of us went down with the ship. I am sorry to say that Oliver didn't make it. 

The next day, we went back to The City. Unfortunately, this was also a day that it was supposed to be freezing cold. So we did some extra bundling and decided to drive in. The plan was to grab lunch, go to the Natural History Museum to see dinosaur bones and then hang out in Central Park for an hour or two (or until we turned into icicles - whichever happened first).

Since this post is now ridiculously long, I will keep the rest "pictorial" with brief captions (i.e. copied straight from Facebook):

Night at the Museum star sighting. You can’t walk 10 feet in NYC without bumping into a celebrity….


MORE dinosaurs! Travel tip: when you go to a museum, specifically to see dinosaur bones, make sure to see everything else first so that by the time you get to the bones, everyone is over it and wants to leave.

"No really, Mom – can we leave now?" Also - I think George is giving me the finger. 

We found the bridge where the pigeon lady lived in Home Alone 2!
It doesn’t get any more glamorous than this.

Pigeon lady bridge take 2.

Race to the rocks! George got there first (see tiny figure at the top).

There is no such thing as too many rocks to climb…

She NEVER poses for me anymore (willingly)! Central Park brings out the best in us I guess.
Also – where the fuck are we?!

Right before we realized we were on the wrong side of Central Park... Pretty bridge though!

It’s getting darker (and colder) and it’s really time to leave the park.
It will probably be a 20 minute walk across…so obviously time to wrestle and give piggy back rides.
We will definitely go back in the summer to do more touristy stuff. Perhaps even a double-decker bus ride

On the drive home, I asked the kids if it was safe to say that New York was one of our favorite cities. Ever practical, Eleanor pointed out that they've never actually been to any other cities (DC doesn't count since it's "home"). "Mom - it's our ONLY city." Unintentionally spoken like a true New Yorker. Now we ALL love The City!

1 comment:

  1. Great read even though I am biased about The City AND the writer.